10 Questions to Ask When Choosing The Best Hunting Dog Breeders
Your current hunting dog is now getting on in years. It’s time to acquire a new puppy.
You know what breed you want.
You look in the classified section of Pointing Dog Journal and see a number of ads from breeders. How do you determine which is the best breeder for you?
The key to getting a good puppy is in picking a good breeder.
If you select a quality breeder who has a successful training and testing program, has a history of producing puppies that are well socialized and possess the natural characteristics that go into the makeup of a good hunting dog, then you have an excellent chance of getting the right puppy.
Pick the breeder first, then the puppy
10 Questions to Ask Hunting Dog Breeders
Here are some questions to ask your prospective breeder before you put down your money for your new hunting puppy.
1. Does the Breeder Hunt
The first question to ask is, does the breeder hunt? What birds does he hunt and how many days a year does he hunt?
How old is the sire and dam of the litter of puppies that he has available?
Does he hunt the sire and dam, how often and on what birds? What is their hunting range, and style?
2. What Evaluation Programs Does He Use?
A good breeder has a planned program that includes evaluation of his dogs by outside judges.
You want to know:
- What program and tests a breeder uses to determine the success of their kennel, and
- What proof do they have that their breeding program is successful?
There are several good testing programs available. One of the best is NAVHDA’s natural ability test.
The Natural Ability Test measures seven hereditary characteristics which are fundamental to the makeup of a good, reliable hunting dog.
There are three phases to the test: The Field Phase, Tracking Phase, and Water Phase.
Puppies up to sixteen months of age are tested and evaluated for nose, search, water, pointing, tracking, desire to work, and cooperation.
The natural ability test is an excellent way for a prospective owner to judge the quality of puppies being produced by a breeder)
You can obtain the test results, referred to as a breeder’s report, for each breeder at a nominal cost from NAVHDA
These reports will show the test scores of all of the dogs produced by that breeder.
If a breeder’s test scores show a high number of young puppies passing the natural ability test, it is a good indication that your breeder is producing good prospects.
The breeder’s report will also show you all of the pups from that breeder that did not pass the test. If you are looking for a certain characteristic in your dog, you can see the scores of these characteristics.
Let’s say you do a great deal of waterfowl hunting. It is important that you get a pup that will excel in the water. The breeder’s test scores will show you the results of the water work on each pup tested by that breeder.
Jim Rieser, a well-known breeder of German shorthairs feels that the natural ability test scores on the breeder’s litters are more important than the sire or dam having a prize one utility score.
“The utility test is designed to test a hunting dog’s usefulness to the on-foot hunter in all phases of hunting both before and after the shot, infield and marsh, and on different species of game.”
A dog that passes the utility test is certainly a well-qualified dog. Jim Rieser’s point is that there is a great deal of training that goes into getting a dog ready for the utility test.
The natural ability results give the prospective dog buyer an indication of the natural traits that a puppy possess.
When you buy a puppy, you are looking for potential built-in characteristics and natural talent.
A breeder who has a long history of his pups scoring well in natural ability is a better indication that you are going to get a pup that will turn into a good hunting dog than a breeder who has a champion sire or dam with unproven offspring.
Socialization of a young puppy is extremely important.
Ask the breeder how he socializes his young pups. Make sure that quality time is spent with the pups before you as a buyer get your new puppy.
Can the breeder you are talking to recommend other breeders of similar quality?
The successful breeders normally have a waiting list of buyers. They have a sound successful program and are not afraid to recommend other quality breeders.
Call the other breeders and inquire about the breeder you are interested in. Other breeders are far better able to judge the quality of the kennel and pups being produced than a customer.
5. What Are the Pup’s Strongest Points
What positive qualities does the breeder like in his dogs?
What does he like most about his dogs?
You can count on the breeder waxing eloquently about the superior qualities of his breed. That’s fine, you will get a good idea of what qualities he has stressed in his breeding and training program.
If these are the qualities you are looking for, then this is one indication that this might be the right breeder for you.
6. What Improvement?
What qualities does the breeder feel he needs to improve in his dogs? What problems has he experienced with his line of dogs?
These problems might have to do with conformation, hip problems, field work, retrieving or any number of things.
If a breeder tells you he has never experienced a problem of any kind, beware.
A good breeding program is always a work in progress. A top breeder, no matter how successful, is always trying to improve his breeding line. There is no such thing as a perfect dog.
A good breeder will be happy to discuss with you the areas that he is working on to improve his line of dogs.
7. What guarantees does the breeder offer to buyers?
This is a touchy subject with some breeders. Most of the good breeders offer a guarantee. Some breeders, like Jeff Funke, a top German wirehair breeder offers an unconditional six-month guarantee, from the date of purchase.
The minimum guarantee that you should expect is one that covers the health of the pup. You have the right to expect a sound healthy pup, with no genetic flaws, no hip problems, or any other physical problem that would inhibit the dog from hunting.
Ask the breeder if he has his dogs tested for hip dysplasia. The two most popular tests for hips are OFA and Pin Hip. Good breeders always test the sire and dam for hips before breeding.
Also inquire whether the pups have had their vaccinations, been wormed, and have had their dew claws removed.
A good breeder has confidence in his dogs and his breeding program. He does not want a person to have one of his dogs if the dog happens to be unsound or does not fit in with the owner’s needs or expectations.
8. When’s the Next Litter Available?
If the breeder has answered all of the questions to your satisfaction, and you have decided that you want to buy a pup from him, ask him when his next litter will be available.
Also, ask him who the sire and dam will be. Have the breeder send you the registration papers of the sire and dam showing their certified pedigree.
Most breeders have a brochure that features their kennel, with photos of their dogs and their breeding program. I also like to have a photo of the sire and dam.
Many people like to visit the breeder and see his kennel operation before buying.
Once you have qualified your breeder, it is certainly not necessary to visit the kennel to get a good pup. However, I find that I can make a good judgment of the kennel and the dogs with first-hand observation.
As a breeder, I am also impressed with customers who take the time and spend the effort and money to visit my kennel. I want to make sure that all of my pups are going to find a good home with a person who likes dogs and will hunt his dog.
A personal visit gives me an opportunity to size up and judge whether or not I want to sell a pup to this prospective customer. As a prospective buyer, you should be prepared for questions from the breeder about your hunting desires, your past experience and ownership and care of dogs.
9. What Kind of Dog Do You Want?
Finally, you need to tell the breeder what type of dog you want. Discuss with him how often and how hard you hunt, and what type of game birds you hunt most.
If you’re hunting the prairies you probably want a fairly wide-ranging dog. If you are hunting the grouse covers of New England or the Midwest you will want a closer working dog.
Do you want a hard-charging alpha type dog?
An alpha dog can be a handful to train and own. You want to match your personality and ability with the dog as much as possible.
One mistake that many dog buyers make is the false assumption that all female dogs are easier to handle. This is not always the case. In my line of German wirehair pointers, the males are the more laid back and easier to handle than the females.
Trust your breeder to help you select the pup that he feels is best suited to your needs.
Also, a good kennel and breeding program costs money. The initial price of your pup is the smallest part of your investment. Your dog food and vet bills over the ten to fifteen year period will far exceed the cost of the new puppy.
Be prepared to pay a reasonable fee for a new pup.
Plan ahead, most breeders have deposits up to a year or more in advance for their pups. Don’t wait until six months or less before you start your search for a pup.
Asking intelligent questions, getting tests results and dealing with a committed breeder will certainly improve your chances of getting a good puppy with the potential to become the hunting dog of your dreams.